ULP lacks democratic legitimacy – Dr Friday
Dr Godwin Friday, leader of the New Democratic Party says that the newly formed Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration lacks democratic legitimacy.
In the November 5, 2020 general elections, the ULP won nine seats – one more than they did in 2015, while the NDP was left with six seats. Despite the ULP’s victory, the NDP now has the popular vote, earning 483 more votes than their opponent.
Under the Constitution, it is the party with the most seats that is declared winner and forms the new Government.
“It is a fundamental and treasured principle of democracy that a government that does not have the support of a majority of the people lacks a mandate from them to govern them. It lacks democratic legitimacy,” Friday said in an address to the nation on Wednesday evening. “For anyone to try to explain this away, as Dr Gonsalves has tried, denies the reality of the argument that the ULP itself made in 1998 when they won the popular vote and the NDP won the most seats”.
Using words similar to those used by Gonsalves in 1998, NDP’s leader said that the current government has now lost the moral authority to govern.
And this creates “a crisis of governance in our nation that will only be resolved when the people are again governed by a government that has the support of a majority of the people”.
In his address, which was carried via television, radio and social media, Friday expressed the view that the legitimacy of “the minority government that the ULP has now become” is in doubt.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves was sworn in as Prime Minister two days after the general elections and the Cabinet of ministers was sworn in on Tuesday evening, one day before Friday’s address to the nation.
Friday, who will serve in Parliament for the second time as Opposition Leader, said the government was formed with a minority of votes, despite their efforts to influence voters through exploitation of state resources and widespread buying of votes in key constituencies.
“Clearly, these circumstances, including the meagre margins of the results in the recent polls and unfavourable decisions in the final count of North Leeward, which gave the seat to the ULP candidate, cast a dark and growing shadow on the legitimacy of the new ULP government,” he said.
After a final count concluded in North Leeward on November 7, it was determined that ULP’s candidate, Carlos James had won the seat by a one-vote majority over NDP’s Roland ‘Patel’ Matthews, who has been the constituency’s representative in Parliament for the last decade.
In his address, Friday encouraged persons to never let anyone tell them that their vote doesn’t count. He also encouraged persons to never tell someone that a vote does not count or bargain or sell their vote to anyone.
Using North Leeward as an example, he said that the declared results show that after four terms in government, the ULP “clings to power precariously, having eked out severely reduced majorities in seven of the nine seats, with the slimmest of margins…”
“The NDP secured swings in 13 of the 15 constituencies right across the nation. Even in Dr Gonsalves’ constituency in North Central Windward, he lost votes in every single polling station, including in his home town of Colonarie, where there was a swing of 4 per cent in favour of the NDP,” Friday said.
Camillo Gonsalves, whom NDP’s leader refers to as “the ULP’s heir apparent”, also lost his significant lead at the polls in East St George, where first-time NDP candidate, Laverne Gibson-Velox cut the 2015 lead from 607 votes to 192.
Friday also referenced another first-time NDP candidate, Shervern John, who was able to reduce the ULP’s margin in North Windward from 323 in 2015 to 62 in 2020.
“In our politics, these are remarkable achievements. It shows a fundamental realignment of our politics has occurred and augurs well for the movement to bring about change led by the New Democratic Party. I thank you, the people for the tremendous confidence and support given to our team and for voting for change, but, we must finish the job,” he said.
Friday said: “there is a popular outpouring of frustration and dissatisfaction with the ULP and Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
The people’s desire for change was heightened during the election campaign; change from the oppressiveness, which is being experienced as a result of the past 19 years of rule under Gonsalves and the ULP”.
The politician said that his party has heard the call and will, with increased vigour and determination”, work towards bringing about the change that has been signalled for by Vincentians.
“Meanwhile, we will spare no effort to bring about the necessary economic and social improvements we offered the people during the campaign and now continue to hold out as the path to a brighter future,” Friday said.